Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 6, pp 2217–2230 | Cite as

The distribution of molluscan assemblages and their postmortem fate on coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba (northern Red Sea)

  • Martin ZuschinEmail author
  • Michael Stachowitsch
Research Article


Molluscan assemblages were studied on fringing reefs (reef flats, Millepora-fringing reefs, fringing reefs with massive corals) and fore-reef hard substrata (coral patches, coral carpets and small patch reefs) in the Gulf of Aqaba at water depths ranging from the intertidal to 26 m. A total of 1,665 molluscan individuals from 51 taxa was counted on 44 transects, which covered 220 m² at eight diving sites. The most important molluscs in the assemblage were the parasitic gastropod Coralliophila neritoidea, the encrusting gastropod Dendropoma maxima and the coral-associated bivalve Pedum spondyloideum. The dead assemblage, in contrast, was dominated by encrusting bivalves (Ostreoidea, Chamoidea, Spondylidae) and the coral-predating gastropod Drupella cornus. Distinct molluscan assemblages inhabit each of the three fringing reef-habitats and most of the important depth-related community changes occurred within the uppermost 5 m. In contrast, the three deeper fore-reef habitats are characterized by a more uniform molluscan composition. Molluscan assemblages were more dependent on substrata and their coral associations than on water depth. Comparisons with other published studies indicate that reefoidal hard substrata in the northern Red Sea are largely characterized by similar species-abundance patterns. The minor differences to other Red Sea studies probably reflect the northern, isolated position of the Gulf of Aqaba, the lack of certain molluscan habitats, and the differential impact of anthropogenic influences. Strong differences between living and dead assemblages in Aqaba are similar to those observed in other regions and are due to distinct biases in the dead assemblage. Molluscs closely associated with living corals (mostly bivalves and Dendropoma) can easily be overgrown after death and are thus undetectable in visual censuses. Some gastropod taxa are preferentially transported into surrounding soft-substrata postmortem or redistributed by hermit crabs. Such complex relationships between ecology and taphonomy are crucial in evaluating the quality of the molluscan fossil record in coral reef environments. The comparison of our results with literature data documents an increase in coral predators during the last two decades in the northern Red Sea. Due to the greater mollusc biodiversity in the shallower Aqaba reef habitats, damage to this coral reef zone would have the greatest impact on the overall mollusc community.


Reef Flat Hard Substratum Hermit Crab Massive Coral Fringe Reef 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We wish to thank the director and staff of the Royal Diving Club, Aqaba, Jordan, for supporting the fieldwork and W. Waitzbauer, J. Herler, P. Zolda of the University of Vienna for organizational and logistic help. MZ was supported by project H-140/2000 of the Hochschuljubiläumsstiftung der Stadt Wien. The experimental procedure complied with the current national laws.


  1. Al-Horani FA, Al-Rousan SA, Al-Zibdeh M, Khalaf MA (2006) The status of coral reefs on the Jordanian coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Zool Middle East 38:99–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Moghrabi SM (1996) Bathymetric distribution of Drupella cornus and Coralliophila neritoidea in the Gulf of Aqaba (Jordan). Proc Int Coral Reef Symp 2:1345–1350Google Scholar
  3. Antonius A, Riegl B (1997) Coral diseases and Drupella cornus invasion in the Red Sea. Coral Reefs 17:48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Antonius A, Riegl B (1998) A possible link between coral diseases and a corallivorous snail (Drupella cornus) outbreak in the Red Sea. Atoll Res Bull 447:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ayal Y, Safriel UN (1981) Species composition, geographical distribution and habitat characteristics of rocky intertidal Cerithiidae (Gastropoda; Prosobranchia) along the Red Sea shores of Sinai. Argamon-Isr J Malacol 7:54–72Google Scholar
  6. Bosch DT, Dance SP, Moolenbeek RG, Oliver PG (1995) Seashells of Eastern Arabia. Motivate Publishing, Dubai, p 296Google Scholar
  7. Bouchet P, Lozouet P, Maestrati P, Heros V. 2002. Assessing the magnitude of species richness in tropical marine environments: exceptionally high numbers of molluscs at a Caledonia site. Biol J Linn Soc 75:421–436CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Braithwaite CJR (1987) Geology and palaeogeography of the Red Sea region. In: Edwards AJ, Head SM (eds) Red Sea, key environments. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 22–44Google Scholar
  9. Bray JR, Curtis JT (1957) An ordination of the upland forest communities of southern Wisconsin. Ecol Monogr 27:325–349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarke KR, Gorley RN (2001) Primer v5: User manual/tutorial. Primer-E, Plymouth, p 91Google Scholar
  11. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (1994) Changes in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, p 144Google Scholar
  12. Crame JA (1980) Succession and diversity in the Pleistocene coral reefs of the Kenya coast. Palaeontology 23:1–37Google Scholar
  13. Crame JA (1981) Ecological stratification in the Pleistocene coral reefs of the Kenya coast. Palaeontology 24:609–646Google Scholar
  14. Edwards FJ (1987) Climate and oceanography. In: Edwards AJ, Head SM (eds) Red Sea, key environments. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 45–69Google Scholar
  15. Fishelson L (1971) Ecology and distribution of the benthic fauna in the shallow waters of the Red Sea. Mar Biol 10:113–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fishelson L (1995) Elat (Gulf of Aqaba) littoral: life on the red line of biodegradation. Isr J Zool 41:43–55Google Scholar
  17. Gosliner TM, Behrens DW, Williams GC (1996) Coral reef animals of the Indo-Pacific. Sea Challengers, MontereyGoogle Scholar
  18. Hadfield MG (1976) Molluscs associated with living tropical corals. Micronesica 12:133–148Google Scholar
  19. Head SM (1987) Corals and coral reefs of the Red Sea. In: Edwards AJ, Head SM (eds) Red Sea, key environments. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 128–151Google Scholar
  20. Hughes RN (1977) The biota of reef flats and limestone cliffs near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. J Nat Hist 11:77–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hughes RN, Lewis AH (1974) On the spatial distribution, feeding and reproduction of the vermetid gastropod Dendropoma maximum. J Zool 172:531–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hulings NC (1986) Aspects of the ecology of the mollusks of the rocky intertidal zone, Jordan Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea). The Veliger 28:318–327Google Scholar
  23. Kappner I, Al-Moghrabi SM, Richter C (2000) Mucus-net feeding by the vermetid gastropod Dendropoma maxima in coral reefs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 204:309–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kidwell SM, Flessa KW (1995) The quality of the fossil record: populations, species, and communities. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 26:269–299CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kidwell SM, Best MMR, Kaufman DS (2005) Taphonomic trade-offs in tropical marine death assemblages: differential time averaging, shell loss, and probable bias in siliciclastic vs. carbonate facies. Geology 33:729–732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kilada R, Zakaria S, Farghalli ME (1998) Distribution and abundance of the giant clam Tridacna maxima (Bivalvia: Tridacnidae) in the northern Red Sea. Bull Natl Inst Oceanogr Fish ARE 24:221–240Google Scholar
  27. Kleemann K (1990) Coral associations, biocorrosion, and space competition in Pedum spondyloideum (GEMLIN) (Pectinacea, Bivalvia). PSZNI Mar Ecol 11:77–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kleemann K (1992) Coral communities and coral-bivalve associations in the Northern Red Sea at Safaga, Egypt. Facies 26:1–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kohn AJ (1983) Microhabitat factors affecting abundance and diversity of Conus on coral reefs. Oecologia 60:293–301CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kruskal JB (1964) Multidimensional scaling by optimizing goodness of fit to a non-metric hypothesis. Psychometrika 29:1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Loya Y (1972) Community structure and species diversity of hermatypic corals on Eilat, Red Sea. Mar Biol 13:100–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Loya Y (2004) The coral reefs of Eilat-past, present and future: three decades of coral community structure studies. In: Rosenberg E, Loya Y (eds) Coral reef health and disease. Springer, Berlin, p 400Google Scholar
  33. Loya Y, Lubinevsky H, Kramarsky-Winter E (2004) Nutrient enrichment caused by in situ fish-farms is detrimental to coral reproduction. Mar Pollut Bull 49:344–353CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Martin RE (1999) Taphonomy: a process approach. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p 508CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mastaller M (1978) The marine molluscan assemblages of Port Sudan, Red Sea. Zool Mededelingen 53:117–144Google Scholar
  36. Mastaller M (1979) Beiträge zur Faunistik und Ökologie der Mollusken und Echinodermen in den Korallenriffen bei Aqaba, Rotes Meer, p 344. Unpublished Ph.D. study, University BochumGoogle Scholar
  37. Mastaller M (1987) Molluscs of the Red Sea. In: Edwards AJ, Head SM (eds) Red Sea, key environments. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 194–214Google Scholar
  38. Medio D, Sheppard CRC, Gascoigne J (2000) The Red Sea. In: McClanahan TR, Sheppard CRC, Obdura DO (eds) Coral reefs of the Indian Ocean, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 231–255Google Scholar
  39. Mergner H (1979) Quantitative ökologische Analyse eines Rifflagunenareals bei Aqaba (Golf von Aqaba, Rotes Meer). Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen 32:476–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mergner H, Schuhmacher H (1974) Morphologie, Ökologie und Zonierung von Korallenriffen bei Aqaba (Golf von Aqaba, Rotes Meer). Helgoländer wissenschaftliche Meeresuntersuchungen 32:238–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Morton B (1983) Coral-associated bivalves of the Indo-Pacific. In: Russel-Hunter WD (ed) The Mollusca. Ecology, vol 6. Academic, New York, pp 139–224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oliver PG (1992) Bivalved seashells of the Red Sea. Verlag Christa Hemmen, Wiesbaden, p 330Google Scholar
  43. Perrin C, Bosence D, Rosen, B (1995) Quantitative approaches to palaeozonation and palaeobathymetry of corals and coralline algae in Cenozoic reefs. In: Bosence DW, Allison PA (eds) Marine palaeoenvironmental analysis from fossils. Geol Soc Spec Publ 83: 181–229Google Scholar
  44. Perry CT (1996) The rapid response of reef sediments to changes in community composition: implications for time averaging and sediment accumulation. J Sediment Res 66:459–467Google Scholar
  45. Reiss Z, Hottinger L (1984) The Gulf of Aqaba. Ecological micropaleontology. Springer, Berlin, p 354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Riegl B, Velimirov B (1994) The structure of coral communities at Hurghada in the Northern Red Sea. PSZNI Mar Ecol 15:213–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Robertson R (1970) Review of the predators and parasites of stony corals, with special reference to symbiotic prosobranch gastropods. Pac Sci 24:43–54Google Scholar
  48. Salvat B (1971) Mollusques lagunaires et récifaux de l’ile de Raevavae (Australes, Polynésie). Malacol Rev 4:1–15Google Scholar
  49. Schuhmacher H (1992) Impact of some corallivorous snails on stony corals in the Red Sea. Proc Int Coral Reef Symp 2:840–846Google Scholar
  50. Schuhmacher H, Kiene W, Dullo WC (1995) Factors controlling Holocene reef growth: an interdisciplinary approach. Facies 32:145–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shackley M (1999) Tourism development and environmental protection in southern Sinai. Tour Manage 20:543–548CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sharabati D (1984) Red Sea shells. Routledge, London p 128Google Scholar
  53. Sheppard CRC, Sheppard ALS (1991) Corals and coral communities of Arabia. Fauna Saudi Arabia 12:170Google Scholar
  54. SPSS (1999) SPSS base 10 applications guide. Prentice-Hall, Chicago, p 426Google Scholar
  55. Taylor JD, Reid DG (1984) The abundance and trophic classification of molluscs upon coral reefs in the Sudanese Red Sea. J Nat Hist 18:175–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Walker SE (1989) Hermit crabs as taphonomic agents. Palaios 4:439–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wells FE (1998) Marine molluscs of Milne Bay Province, Papua, New Guinea. In: Werner TB, Allen GR (eds) A rapid biodiversity assessment of the coral reefs of Milne Bay Province, Papua, New Guinea, vol 11. RAP working papers, pp 35–38Google Scholar
  58. Wielgus J (2003) The coral reef of Eilat (northern Red Sea) requires immediate protection. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 263:307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Zuschin M, Hohenegger J (1998) Subtropical coral-reef associated sedimentary facies characterized by molluscs (Northern Bay of Safaga, Red Sea, Egypt). Facies 38:229–254CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zuschin M, Oliver PG (2003a) Bivalves and bivalve habitats in the northern Red Sea. The Northern Bay of Safaga (Red Sea, Egypt): an actuopalaeontological approach. VI. Bivalvia, Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien, p 304Google Scholar
  61. Zuschin M, Oliver PG (2003b) Fidelity of molluscan life and death assemblages on sublittoral hard substrata around granitic islands of the Seychelles. Lethaia 36:133–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zuschin M, Oliver PG (2005) Diversity patterns of bivalves in a coral dominated shallow-water bay in the northern Red Sea—high species richness on a local scale. Mar Biol Res 1:396–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zuschin M, Piller WE (1997a) Gastropod shells recycled—an example from a rocky tidal flat in the northern Red Sea. Lethaia 30:127–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zuschin M, Piller WE (1997b) Bivalve distribution on coral carpets in the Northern Bay of Safaga (Red Sea, Egypt) and its relation to environmental parameters. Facies 37:183–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zuschin M, Hohenegger J, Steininger FF (2000) A comparison of living and dead molluscs on coral reef associated hard substrata in the northern Red Sea—implications for the fossil record. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 159:167–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zuschin M, Hohenegger J, Steininger FF (2001) Molluscan assemblages on coral reefs and associated hard substrata in the Northern Red Sea. Coral Reefs 20:107–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PalaeontologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of Marine BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

Personalised recommendations